If you ever get to visit Japan, you should definitely visit the town of Goju, in the Gifu Prefecture of Japan. One of the things to see are the artisans demonstrating how to make realistic looking food out of plastic and wax using the technique called Sampuru, that was started in the 1920’s in Japan.
There’s a reason it looks real. It’s created to be displayed at restaurants, and so the samples have to look like the real thing. They are used in menu displays on shelves behind a glass compartment and assist customers in figuring out what they want to eat. They’re made to look exactly like the dishes the restaurant serves. And restaurants are the main clients for this type of craft work, so the samples are custom made for each eatery.
Artisan apprenticeships are a common thing in Japan, and this craft usually takes about three years to learn the basics, but about five years to be considered professional enough to sell your work. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to sushi chefs who usually train for ten years before they can be considered actual sushi chefs and no longer just apprentices.
Clients usually send photos and real samples of their foods for the fake food artisans to work with. They even use many machines and utensils that you would find in a kitchen, such as spatulas, knives, forks, and so on.
In this video, the artisan demonstrating his craft in front of an audience is making some shrimp tempura samples. He describes how to make the outer breaded part of the tempura shrimp, and then inserts what looks like a real shrimp, but is also a fake food sample that was pre-made.
He also makes a lifelike head of lettuce. He begins with light green colored wax that is mixed with a moldable silicone plastic, and the mix increases intensity a few shades to a medium green mix for the outer leaves of the lettuce.
He cuts the sample open to demonstrate how lifelike the inside of the sample looks, and it truly does look good enough to eat. Children are watching, and so he uses a gentle and playful manner to explain what he’s doing.
He also makes some shrimp tempura samples. He demonstrates how to make the outer breaded part of the tempura shrimp, and then inserts what looks like a real shrimp, but is also a fake food sample that was pre-made.
At one time, this video went viral because a conspiracy was tied to it, that it was a video of workers in China making synthetic cabbage to sell to unsuspecting customers. Although it’s true that they sell a lot of foods in China you should be wary of, this video is from Japan, and no one was sold fake lettuce to eat in this video. That story was a hoax.